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Surgery: What to Expect – Implanting the Drug Pump

Cancer Pain

Intrathecal Drug Delivery

If you and your doctor decide that a drug pump is the best option to manage your cancer pain, you will need surgery to implant the system. Before the surgery, you and your doctor will decide where to position the pump for your comfort. The surgery takes approximately 1 to 3 hours.

On the day of the surgery, you will receive local or general anaesthesia. Once you are "under" the anaesthetic, your surgeon will:

  • Make an incision and form a pocket under your skin that is large enough to hold the pump
  • Create a second incision on your back for the catheter
  • Tunnel the catheter under your skin and attach one end to the pump (the other end is placed in the intrathecal space)
  • Anchor the pump and catheter

Once the pump and catheter are in place, the incisions are closed and the surgery is complete. The length of your stay at the hospital will vary depending on your doctor's preference and hospital procedures.

Next: Questions and Answers

Surgical complications are possible and include infection, spinal fluid leak, and headache. You should not undergo the implant procedure if you have an active infection at the time scheduled for implant.

Once the infusion system is implanted, device complications may occur which may require surgery to resolve. Drug overdose or underdose can result because of these complications, which have serious and even life-threatening adverse effects. Possible complications include the catheter or pump moving within the body or wearing through the skin. The catheter may leak, tear, kink, or become disconnected. The pump may stop because the battery has run out or because another part of the infusion system has failed. Additionally inflammatory masses have been reported at the tip of the catheter which may lead to complications, including paralysis.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.